This is comfort food on so many levels. For one, risotto has to be one of the most comforting things to eat ever. What’s more, although everyone goes on about the finickiness and crucial fine-tuning involved, I find risotto immensely comforting to make: in times of stress, mindless repetitive activity—in this case, 20 minutes of stirring—can really help. What you don’t want to do is make risotto for large numbers of people, which is why I’ve indicated that this serves two (as supper in its entirety); if you want to call it into service as a starter, then reckon on its feeding four.
There is a more personal reason why this is comforting for me. The recipe comes from Anna del Conte (from her Secrets of an Italian Kitchen to be exact), and she, beyond any doubt the best Italian foodwriter around, is the person I turn to for bolstering and solace. Just reading her books provides instant, essential nourishment.
- 2 shallots
- 1 rib of celery
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/3 cups risotto rice, preferably arborio or Vialone Nano
- Approx. 1 quart vegetable stock
- Zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
- Needles from 2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more to sprinkle
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- Maldon or other sea salt to taste
- good grating pepper, preferably white
Put the shallots and celery into a mini food processor and blitz until they are a finely chopped mush. Heat half the butter, the oil and the shallot and celery mixture in a wide saucepan, and cook to soften the mixture for about 5 minutes, making sure it doesn’t stick. Mix in the rice, stirring to give it a good coating of oil and butter. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another saucepan and keep it at the simmering point.
Pour a ladleful of the stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Continue doing this until the rice is al dente. You may not need all of the stock, equally, you may need to add hot water from the kettle.
Mix the lemon zest and the rosemary into the risotto, and in a small bowl beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, Parmesan, cream and pepper.
When the risotto is ready—when the rice is no longer chalky, but still has some bite—take it off the heat and add the bowl of eggy, lemony mixture, and the remaining butter and salt to taste. Serve with more grated Parmesan if you wish, check the seasoning and dive in.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.